Want to help a local restaurant during coronavirus outbreak? Buy a gift card

A downtown Bethesda, Md., restaurant is closed as Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order takes effect, closing bars, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters across the state in response to coronavirus, Monday, March 16, 2020. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Small businesses across the D.C. region, especially bars and restaurants, are struggling, with many closed and no way to know when they will reopen.

One way to help out is to buy a gift card or two, and bars and restaurants are encouraging their patrons to do so.

In D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, where there are more than 100 independently-owned bars and restaurants, they are calling their gift card campaign “Buy Restaurant Bonds.”

“Our idea behind the campaign was building on the Buy War Bonds campaigns. Gift cards are a way to spend money now to put an influx of cash into restaurants’ pockets, and the cards can be used whenever,” Kristen Barden with the Adams Morgan Partnership told WTOP.

In effect, gift cards are a form of a microloan. The business is paid as soon as the card is purchased, not when redeemed.

Many restaurants closed are still offering takeout and delivery, and that will help, but Barden said not very much.

“The ones that are able to do carryout or delivery service will have some source of revenue, but it’s not enough, because restaurants count on people coming through the door and sitting down,” she said.

Several large delivery platforms, including UberEats, Seamless and DoorDash, are waiving or deferring the commission fees restaurants pay for deliveries.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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